It was just before Christmas last year that Aimee and her three children found themselves in need of a home. In spite of the many challenges they faced, that Christmas season spent at Hillcrest Hope was her family's best holiday yet, Aimee says.
"That Christmas gave my kids an opportunity to see love from people who didn't even know them," Aimee says, tearfully. "It blessed their little hearts so much, and they got to experience the love that they had not seen or felt before."
Because she had to work on Christmas day, they approached the holiday a bit differently, Aimee says, celebrating that evening instead. "We got to open presents, cook dinner and make things together."
The family was a recipient of generous donors who contributed Christmas gifts. Topping Aimee's family wish list were activities they could all enjoy together. "The things I requested were things like games and arts and crafts. These were things we could do as a family."
Those Christmas gifts are still part of their lives each week. Today, months after Aimee's Hillcrest Hope graduation, the family looks forward to a weekly game night and a weekly arts and crafts night at home. They're still working through their collection of craft supplies from Christmas 2014, and they play their games every week.
"These gifts have helped us to be a stronger unit as a family," she says. "It seems simple, just a game or arts and crafts, but those are precious times. It has made us so much stronger. We get through our struggles together and better because of the unity it has brought us."
Most importantly, Aimee says, "Christmas at Hillcrest Hope gave us family time. We could laugh together, be goofy and just enjoy being with each other without the stress that the world brings."
Although Christmas stands out as an especially meaningful memory, Aimee says she and her family were blessed by generosity throughout their entire time at Hillcrest Hope. "Everyone just poured out blessings on us and reminded us how real God is and how loved we are," she says.
"Hillcrest Hope encouraged us to grow together as a family," she says. "It turned our lives around. I don't know how I would have made it without the support I received from Hillcrest Hope."
Today, Aimee and her children (now ages 7, 9 and 13) are thriving. Her oldest son is even part of the wrestling team at his school. "We're all really supportive of him. The kids love school and love the community, and I do too."
As she looks forward to Christmas this year, Aimee has just one word to describe how she's feeling: grateful. "I'm just grateful for every moment. As hard as Hillcrest Hope was and as much as we had to push, it really showed us who we could be and motivated us to become better every day. As a family, we've come farther than we ever thought we could."